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A Feel for Jazz

Saxophonist says playing is a blend of 'the intellect and the heart.'


Saxophonist Harvey Wainapel became attracted to jazz as a young teenager. He was drawn to the art form in the first place, he figures, for the same reasons that keep him going.

"Jazz is a very compelling art form, a combination of the intellect and the heart," said Wainapel (pronounced "Wine-apple"), who now resides in San Francisco. "It's about a reflection of who you are as a person, who you are at a given moment. When the playing is going good, I feel like the freest person in the world."

Wainapel is an accomplished musician who has released two CDs. His work has been acclaimed in such magazines as Down Beat and JazzTimes and by such noted musicians as Joe Lovano and Jimmy Heath.

And his playing tends to mirror what drew him to jazz: On tenor, alto or soprano saxophones he produces warm, mostly personal sounds. In his solos he stresses warmth and deep feelings while also making statements that are thoughtful and profound. His sense of swing is strong.

Such greats as John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker are cited by Wainapel as influences. But, unlike them, Wainapel said, he is not an innovator.

"I'm just playing what I hear, trying to learn from my sources and add something to the art, bring my own bat to the sandlot," he said. "My goal is to get my feelings out and do that in a way that's musically coherent."

Wainapel plays Saturday at Jax in Glendale. There, he will be accompanied by Dave Scott, trumpet; Cecilia Coleman, piano; Trey Henry, bass; and Dave Hocker, drums. Some of these musicians, such as Scott, are old friends.

The musicians will offer an appealing repertoire built around some originals by Scott and material from Wainapel's two CDs--his debut, "At Home on the Road," released in 1992 and last year's "Ambrosia: The Music of Kenny Barron."

"I've always loved Kenny's compositions, and felt they were under-recorded, except by Kenny," said Wainapel.

Wainapel, the son of concentration camp survivors, was born in 1951. He learned jazz by playing along with records he heard on New York City radio stations, which he listened to at home in Ellenville, N.Y. "The great thing about practicing with the radio is that you get to play with everybody and they can't tell you how bad you sound."

He spent two years at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he met such future colleagues as Lovano and John Scofield. Then Wainapel moved to Europe in 1974, working in the Netherlands and in Germany. He later lived in New York, toured with Ray Charles for 10 months, and then settled in San Francisco, where he's lived since 1982.

Besides performing, Wainapel teaches at Sonoma State University and at the summer Stanford Jazz Workshop. Though it's sometimes difficult to get playing engagements, that's nothing compared to the overall rewards of the music life.

"The hard part is where business and music intersect, all the business work you have to do--sending out press packages, making phone calls--just to try and get heard," he said. "But I love music and I'm glad I chose it. Without it, I'd be a much sadder person."

* Harvey Wainapel plays Sat., 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., at Jax, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. No cover, no minimum. Call: (818) 500-1604.


Smooth Slide: Given that Bill Watrous is the possessor of a succulent, buttery trombone tone, it's no wonder his notes all but melt in your ear. Even at a driving tempo, Watrous keeps warmth at the heart of his sound.

After years without a big band recording, Watrous has documented his Refuge West large ensemble. "Space Available," recorded last December in Burbank, is now out on Double-Time Records, and features the solid writing of Tom Kubis, Gordon Goodwin and others, as well as the fine playing of Watrous, reed man Sal Lozano and trumpeter Bob Summers, et al. The band appears on Tuesday, 8 and 10 p.m., at Moonlight Tango Cafe (13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; $13 cover for 8 p.m. show, $9 cover for 10 p.m., $9.95 food or drink minimum; (818) 788-2000). Sue Raney is the honey-voiced chanteuse.

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